LA Duck hunters to work with 60-day season

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08/2/02    

Duck hunters to work with 60-day season

Joe Macaluso/Baton Rougue Advocate  jmacaluso@theadvocate.com

Thursday morning's announcement from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service translated into good news for state duck hunters Thursday afternoon when the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission voted on dates and daily bag limits for a 60-day, 2002-03 duck season.

Acting on recommendations from the Mississippi Flyway's South Region and similar reports from two of the country's remaining four flyway groups, the USFWS gave the OK for a "liberal" framework. In addition to the 60 days, that framework means a six-ducks-per-day bag limit, the highest allowed in the Service's Adaptive Harvest Management Program.

The report, relayed to the commission by State Waterfowl Study leader Robert Helm, came with bad news about canvasback, pintail and scaup populations. Numbers of these birds have been declining, and the USFWS closed the season on canvasback.

It also followed the South Region's recommendation for a 30-day season-in-a-season for pintails. Louisiana hunters will have those 30 days in the initial half of the 60-day East and West Zone seasons. The limit will be one pintail per day.

Furthermore, for the second year, the daily limit on scaup will be three among the six ducks.

Another change in the season framework will affect East Zone hunters. The season will run through the last Sunday in January, that's Jan. 26, 2003. It's a departure from what was a long-standing, season-ending date of the Sunday nearest to Jan. 20.

West Zone hunters will get their season in two 30-day segments, Nov. 9-Dec. 8 and Dec. 21-Jan. 19, while East Zone hunters go from Nov. 16-Dec. 1, then Dec. 14-Jan. 26. It's the latest duck-hunting closing date in the history of regulated seasons.

Special Youth Waterfowl Weekends will precede the opening dates in the two zones and will be open to hunters 16 years old and younger when accompanied by gunless adults.

After the USFWS' Spring Breeding Survey showed a 14 percent decline in the overall count of 10 species, Mississippi Flyway hunters feared their season would be cut to 45 days -- it's been 60 days for five years -- or possibly to a restrictive 30 days.

Helm explained the frameworks are based on mallard counts, which are, at 7.5 million birds, slightly more the 47-year survey's average for the species.

Another change for waterfowl hunters is a statewide Nov. 2-Dec. 8 and Dec. 14-Jan. 31 goose season. There were no changes in the 20-per-day limits on snow, blue and Ross' geese, nor for the two-a-day limits on specklebellies.

Hunters will also have a Dec. 9-Dec. 13 and Feb. 1-March 9 Conservation Order season for snow, blue and Ross' geese when limits are suspended and other special regulations apply.

This special season is allowed by the USFWS to cut into the ever-increasing numbers of those geese in North America.

The LWFC also approved a Jan. 18-26 special Canada goose hunt, which, for the first time, includes two weekends in a specially permitted season.

In other action, the commission approved Emergency Declarations for an excise tax on imported shrimp; an Aug. 19 statewide opening of the fall inshore shrimp season; set Sept. 4, Sept. 23 or Oct. 15 opening dates for taking oysters on the state's public oyster seed grounds; for a Nov. 20-March 31 fur trapping season; set an Oct. 1-Jan. 31 archery-only deer season on the Acadiana Conservation Corridor, a 30-mile long, 2,285 acre strip along Interstate 49; and, scheduled youth-only Sept. 14-15 dove and Nov. 16 deer hunts on the new 650-acre Floy McElroy WMA near Rayville.

It also issued Notices of Intent for new regulations covering nuisance animals for homeowners, including the trapping and relocation of squirrels, rabbits, foxes, bobcats, mink, otter, muskrat and raccoons, and for a new three-day, nonresident outdoors media combination license.

State Rep. Bobby Faucheux, D-LaPlace, also explained nine House and Senate resolutions concerning the establishment of the Maurepas Swamp WMA, notably that the LWFC reconsider a demand for removing all private hunting camps from the 63,000 acres and a rule banning the use of dogs for deer hunting.

The commission also learned that State Enforcement agents issued 1,830 written citations and 151 warnings during July, proclaimed Sept. 28 as Louisiana Hunting and Fishing Day and voted it's December meeting for Dec. 5 in Baton Rouge.
 

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